I awoke with a start, finding myself safely in my own bed, the remnants of the nightmare I had been having was slowly fading away. It was still dark outside of my bedroom window and I wanted to fall back to sleep but dreaming about the monster would always wake me right up. Kyan was still snoring lightly as I slipped from the bed and decided to go take a shower to wash the sweat off of my body. I grabbed some shorts and a t-shirt before I went into the bathroom that I shared with Kyan and shut the door as quietly as I could. Once I had taken a quick shower, I went down to the kitchen and grabbed a bottle of water before making myself comfortable on the sofa in the family room. There was a random book sitting on the coffee table, so I decided to try and read until I could fall back to sleep.
I pulled the blanket off of the back of the couch to cover up with and set to work reading the novel that was about a boy that was struggling with strange dreams and powers he never knew he had.
The next thing I knew it was morning and my mother was waking me up by rubbing my chest.
“Zyan,” I heard her say soothingly. “It’s time to wake up, baby boy.”
I sat up groggily as my mother laughed softly.
“I’m sorry, mom.” I began to apologize quickly. “I didn’t mean to fall asleep-.”
My mother put her finger to my lips to silence me before she pulled me into a tight hug.
“It’s okay, Zyan. I just wanted to make sure that you were alright,” my mother said with a worried smile.
“Yeah,” I said sheepishly. “I just had another bad dream.”
“Was it him, again?” There was anger in her voice, but she always sounded angry when we talked about my past or my nightmares.
I nodded silently in response and my mother just continued to hold me against her.
“I’ll never let that bastard hurt you again, Zyan,” she said fiercely. I trembled slightly but returned the hug. “Ever!”
My mother and I sat like that for nearly half of an hour before my father came downstairs and joined us in the living room.
“Did something happen?” My father asked in concern as he sat on the sofa next to us. He immediately reached out and started rubbing my back. “I think it’s time for us to schedule him an appointment with Doctor Roberts.”
“It’s only for the best, Zyan.” My mother said as she ran her thumb down my cheek to wipe up my stray tears. “It’s the only way for you to deal with these horrible memories.”
“I know,” I said sadly. “I just don’t want to let anybody else into my head. I don’t even like you guys knowing.”
“Shh, baby boy,” my mother quickly reassured me. “We’re going to love you no matter what happens. You’re our son, Zyan, and nothing will ever change that.”
I nodded sadly but remained quiet.
“Doctor Roberts helped me out quite a bit when you first went missing,” my mother continued. “My life was a nightmare during those first few years. I’m surprised that our family was even able to stay together this past decade. It truly is a blessing to have you back, little one.”
“I love you, mommy,” I whispered.
“We love you, too, Zyan.” My father said gently.
“I’ll go get breakfast started,” my mother stated as she kissed my forehead.
“Just stay here and relax, baby boy,” my father instructed as he handed me the book that had fallen to the floor. He sat down on the couch behind me and pulled me up to where I was lying against his side and he had his arm around me. “Do you want to talk about your nightmare?”
“I barely remember it,” I said with a sigh. “All I remember is the name ‘Arys’.”
“Have you heard that name before?”
“Yes,” I replied quietly. I remembered Arys very clearly and how he had just vanished in the middle of the night. “He was one of my foster brothers. We were both living with the Monster.”
“Oh?” I heard the slight edge to my father’s voice as I talked about the Monster. The same tone that my mother always took, too. “Did he hurt Arys like he did you?”
I nodded slightly.
“I think so, dad,” I replied sadly. “Arys was only eleven. His birthday was a week before mine, and he was my best friend while he lived with the Monster. He would show up in my room with bruises on him sometimes, and he would just tell me to not worry about anything. He just disappeared one night, and the Monster told me that he ran away. That’s when the beatings started for me.”
“Do you want me to try to find him, Zyan?”
“I- I don’t think he can be found, dad,” I told him as more of the dream started coming back to me.
“What do you mean, Zyan?”
“In my dream,” I hesitated but my father rubbed his hand against my chest, coaxing me into continuing. “He was older than when I knew him, dad. He was a lot older. Arys looked like he was in his twenties or something, and he was wearing this strange gray-suit like it was a uniform.”
“How do you know it was him, then?”
I frowned at my father’s question.
“Someone said his name in the dream.”
“Oh,” my father stated calmly. “That makes sense then.”
I remained silent as I thought about the boy. I had never heard from Arys again after the night he had disappeared. He had left me with a brief goodbye, telling me that he would come back and save me, but he had never returned. In my mind, Arys had abandoned me. Asking the monster where the boy had gone had only proved to be a mistake. The Monster spent the next two years destroying me as a person, and the man that was in charge of my case from CPS, didn’t care in the slightest. He made phone calls to Harold Stubbs once a month just to keep in touch and to make sure that he was counted as doing his job. The beatings didn’t slow down until Karen became my Case Worker. It went like that for a month before the monster finally beat me to the brink of death and I was finally rescued by Natalie and Greg.
I never blamed Arys for not coming back. I wouldn’t have gone back, either. I always just wished that there was some way for me to get a hold of him just to make sure that he was safe. The dream didn’t make any sense. I had never seen Arys as an adult. He was ten and should be twelve by now, but I saw him when he was in his twenties in my dream. The entire thing looked like a scene from Star Trek. I decided to just let the matter drop for now. I could worry about Arys, later. My nightmares were probably just from being stressed out too much over the past week.
I dropped the matter entirely, and my father didn’t push me for more information about the missing boy. I had told him everything I knew as it was. I doubted anybody would ever find Arys if he was even still alive.
“What do you want to do, today, buddy?” My father asked, changing the subject since he knew talking about my dreams made me uncomfortable.
“I don’t know,” I replied with a shrug, already having been pushed to do something daily. “Can we just hang out around the house, today?”
“Of course, we can, baby boy,” he replied with a smile. He ruffled my hair before he went to go help my mother finish up breakfast for everyone.
I picked up the book and continued reading once I had found where I had left off at.
My first week living with my family was going well, and my mother smiled every time that I walked into the room before she would spend several minutes fussing over me. Sarah and Kyan would just laugh at our mother’s antics while my father would just wait for his turn to try and spoil me. My brother and sister were always awaiting in the wings, ready to rescue me from my parents if they ever felt like I was beginning to get smothered. Needless to say, my family spent the week watching out for me and helping me adjust to being back together.
I cried myself to sleep several nights as I thought about Toby and how he was handling the situation. Natalie and Greg had both promised me that he was doing fine, and Toby even sounded like it when I had managed to call Natalie to check on him. My entire world was changing around me, faster than I had ever considered possible, and I was dragged along for the ride it seemed. My only source of control was if I hid in my room, but those moments of silence never lasted long. Kyan would usually be the first one to check on me whenever I tried to hide, quickly removing the notion that I would ever be able to hide from my family. If it wasn’t Kyan looking for me, he would get Sarah to help. Denly, my cousin, seemed to find it entertaining whenever he saw me being smothered by the family when he and Hayley were over at our house. Uncle Derek also decided to make it a point to spend time with me whenever he could pry the remainder of the family away. Aunt Abby would dote on me only briefly, seeming to understand how much the attention was beginning to get to me.
I loved all of them, and it hurt whenever they weren’t around, but I needed to take time for myself. I needed to be able to process everything that had been happening, and with life speeding around me, it didn’t seem like that was going to happen anytime soon. It was Natalie and Greg that noticed the tension in my face when they came to visit that Friday afternoon. Natalie tucked me under her arm once Greg was able to convince Toby to go bug Kyan for a little bit so she could pull me aside.
“Are you doing okay, Zyan?” Natalie asked softly as she led me into the room with the piano. I shrugged my shoulders. Natalie had me sit down next to her on the sofa, and she pulled me into her side. “You know, if you ever need a break, you can always come to our house for a night, buddy. Okay?”
I nodded and leaned into her side.
“I’m not used to it, Natalie,” I said quietly, afraid of what she would say in response. “I just-”
“It’s okay, Zyan,” my foster-mom quickly reassured me. “I understand. Everyone is fighting to spend time with you. They all want to make up for the past decade that they’ve missed, but you just want a little ‘Zyan’ time.”
“Exactly,” I said with another nod. “I love them, and I want to spend time with each of them, but I just want to be alone sometimes. I have my own thoughts that I have to deal with, too.”
“What kind of thoughts, Zyan?” Natalie asked in a serious tone.
“Not those thoughts,” I told her quickly to keep her from taking me to the psych ward. I never wanted to go there. “Just personal thoughts, and how to deal with these new feelings of having a family. I haven’t had time to process any of this.”
“Would you like me to talk to your mom and dad about this?”
“Please?” I asked nervously. “Can I come stay the weekend with you and Greg?”
“I’ll see what I can do,” Natalie reassured me gently. “Just relax, baby boy. I know you’re feeling overwhelmed, but soon they’ll get used to you being home again and you’ll practically have to beg them for attention.”
She tickled my side before she kissed my head and released me.
“Toby’s going to go crazy!” I said with a giggle.
“It’ll be like we gave him an entire bag of candy,” Natalie agreed.
“I think I’ll just stay here,” I said as I tried to pull away.
“Too late, now, mister!”
Natalie pulled me back into her lap and proceeded to tickle me until my mother came to see what was going on. I gave Natalie a quick hug.
“Thanks, Natalie,” I whispered before I slipped off her lap and hugged my mom around the waist. I slid from the room before either of them could say anything.
My mother wasn’t happy about my decision to spend the weekend away without any of my family joining me, but she seemed to understand once my brother started to point out the lack of me time that I had been getting during the past week. Sarah chimed in with her opinion as well, which only helped convince my mother that I needed this time alone. She finally relented once Natalie promised to return me in one piece either Sunday night or Monday morning. Natalie was only happy to agree to take care of me for the weekend. My mother, of course, doted on me until it was time for us to leave, even though my father tried multiple times to distract her.
I smiled and just let my mother do what she wanted. It made me happy to see her smile, and it sort of helped me to know that someone was worried about me and wasn’t afraid to show it. It was Toby that finally convinced my mother that everything would be fine for the weekend when he climbed up into her arms to hug her as we were heading out the door.
“I promise that I’ll take good care of Zyan, Aunt Lauren,” the brown-haired boy said sweetly as he kissed my mother on the cheek and hugged her as tightly as a six-year-old could hug someone. “I’ll call you every night just to make sure you are updated!”
“Thank you, Toby,” my mother said softly as she returned the boy’s hug. “I know Zyan will be in good hands with you taking care of him. Your daddy gets too distracted.”
“Hey!” Greg called out in mock protest. “I resemble that remark!”
Toby giggled lightly as my mother kissed his cheek and passed him over to Greg.
“Hi, daddy,” Toby said with a grin as he found himself being held by his future dad.
“Hey, buddy,” Greg said as he carried Toby towards the front door. His voice trailed off as he left the kitchen. “What do you think everybody wants-?”
My mother quickly took advantage of my being distracted and pulled me into her arms. She kissed my cheek soundly as she hugged me.
“I love you, too, mommy,” I whispered.
“Promise me that you’ll be good,” she said as she ran her hand across my cheek. This was more difficult for her than I thought it would be.
“I promise, mommy,” I reassured her. “I’ll be better than Kyan when he wants you to make waffles.”
Kyan giggled from behind me.
“That’s a serious promise, Zyan,” my mother said with her own smile. “I love you.”
I kissed her cheek as she set me back onto the floor. Kyan was the last one to hug me as I followed Natalie to the front door.
“I’ll see you in my dreams, baby brother,” he said only loud enough for me to hear before he kissed me cheek and walked away.
I looked after him in disbelief. It was the first time he had mentioned the dreams we had shared since I had moved in. I was distracted almost immediately by Natalie escorting me towards her car.
“Come along, buddy,” she said with a grin. “Greg and Toby might start plotting against us if we leave them alone for too long.”
Toby smiled happily when I slid into the backseat of the car next to his car seat.
“Hi, Zyan,” he said softly. He reached over and took my hand into his own. “I missed you.”
“I missed you, too, little brother.”
“I promise to not be ‘nnoying this weekend,” Toby said shyly.
I frowned at his words and squeezed his hand.
“You can annoy me as much as you want, Toby,” I told him reassuringly. “I don’t want you to ever feel like you can’t come to me. I love you, baby brother.”
“I love you, too, Zyan,” Toby said shyly.
We were at Natalie’s house twenty minutes later, and Toby was helping me unpack my backpack. He held my teddy bear in his hand for a few minutes with a whimsical smile on his face before he placed it in the center of my pillows. I made a quick decision about what I wanted to do that weekend.
“Stay here a second, Toby,” I told the boy with a smile. “I’ll be right back.”
“Okay, Zyan,” Toby said with a nod of his head.
I grabbed him under his armpits and tossed him into the center of my bed, making him giggle in excitement as I ran back downstairs. Natalie and Greg were in the kitchen getting dinner started for that evening and were talking quietly with each other.
“I’m really happy that he’s back,” Natalie was saying. “Our house feels empty without another child in it.”
“Do you want to talk to Karen about taking in another foster child?”
“Kind of,” Natalie replied. “I think Toby feels lonely.”
“Once we close on this house, we’ll have Karen start helping us find someone that will fit in with Toby,” Greg told his wife. “I wouldn’t want to make a foster kid move with us. It’s bad enough that Toby is going to be changing schools.”
“We can tell Toby our plan, tonight.”
I decided to make my presence known at that moment, not wanting them to think that I was trying to eavesdrop on their conversation.
Greg turned around and smiled at me as I stepped into the kitchen.
“Hey, Zyan,” Greg said as he walked over and picked me up into his arms. He hugged me and planted a firm kiss on my cheek. “What’s up, buddy?”
“Umm,” I hesitated for a moment. “I have a question. Does Toby have a teddy bear?”
Greg looked thoughtful for a moment.
“I know he had one when he first got here,” my foster-dad said. “But I haven’t really seen him use it since those first few nights. He was always sleeping with you.” Greg frowned. “What brought this up, Zyan?”
“I just saw how Toby reacted to my teddy bear,” I tried to explain. “He looked like he wanted one like I had, so I was going to come ask you-.”
Greg put his finger to my lips.
“So, you think my son needs a teddy bear?” Greg asked with a grin.
I nodded shyly.
“I think he needs one from you guys, so he can let go of his past.”
Greg hugged me, tightly.
“That’s a great idea, Zyan,” he said happily. “Do you want to come help me pick one out?”
“No,” I said. “I want to spend time with Toby, for a little bit. I think he needs me.”
“Dinner will be ready when you get back, Greg,” Natalie said as Greg set me down on one of the empty stools next to the counter.
“Thank you, love,” Greg said.
Greg went over and kissed Natalie on the cheek before he slipped out the backdoor to the garage. Natalie smiled at me.
“You never cease to amaze me with your thoughtfulness, Zyan,” Natalie complimented me. She came over and hugged me before she sent me to check on Toby.
Toby was cuddling with my teddy bear when I went back upstairs, and he quickly pushed it away with a shy grin on his face.
“You can cuddle with Bevins,” I told him as I climbed onto the bed and pushed my bear back into his arms. “What happened to your teddy bear, Toby?”
“I keep it in my closet,” Toby said sadly. “It makes me think about my mommy, too much.”
I nodded and pulled the boy into my chest.
“Sorry, Toby,” I said. “I didn’t mean to make you sad.”
“It’s okay, Zyan,” Toby said with a grin. “When I hold your teddy bear, I only think about you and it makes me happy.”
I smiled and kissed his cheek as I remembered all of the times I had woken up with Toby in my bed. He would always be wrapped up tightly in my arms, and Bevins would be tightly in his. I don’t know why I had never thought about it before, and I wish I would have noticed sooner. I gave Toby one last hug before I suggested that we go downstairs to bug his mom.
“Get back here, twerp!”
The brown-haired boy didn’t stop, though. His green eyes were filled with fear as his feet carried on, one in front of the other, as the boy ran for his life. I knew who he was with just a glance, and I knew who he was running from. This was the night that Arys Conner had vanished from my life. The night that the Monster had returned and hit me for the first time ever. Little did I know then that the beatings would only continue to get worse over the next two years. The alley that Arys was running down was the same one that I would use multiple times whenever Harold Stubbs was drunk enough for me to slip out without him noticing. I never stayed gone for very long, though. Arys had already warned me a few days before he disappeared that the punishment would be extremely harsh if I ever missed curfew. Especially, if the Monster was drunk at the time.
“I’ll kill you when I get my hands on you, Arys!” The Monster shouted, but Arys refused to give up.
So, that’s what happened to him, I thought sadly. The Monster got him.
The scene continued to unfold before me, but I had no idea why I was seeing it happen. Arys was struggling to make it to the street and nearly fell as he stepped into one of the many ruts and holes that filled the night-covered alleyway. The Monster was gaining on Arys, and I began to silently cheer the boy on as he began to check the doorknobs as he ran past.
One of the knobs had just twisted slightly when Harold caught Arys and slammed my old friend against the door he had just been trying to open. Arys gasped for air as the Monster’s hand closed in around his throat.
“Time’s up, Arys,” Harold said with a sneer. “It’s a shame that you couldn’t stick around and help me break in the new boy.”
Arys cried out as the Monster slapped him.
“It would have taken the focus off of you if you would have helped me, Arys,” Harold continued before he slapped the boy, again. “Pity. I really liked you, Arys. We were finally beginning to understand each other. Too bad it was all an act.”
I grimaced as Harold punched Arys in his stomach, making the boy double over as he gasped out for air. The door behind the boy rattled, slightly.
I don’t want to see my friend’s death, I thought miserably.
“I wish it would have worked out, Arys,” the Monster said as he punched Arys, again. Then, Harold grabbed the boy’s shirt and pulled the boy close, spitting as he shouted at the trembling boy. “But I can’t let you return to the house. It would set a bad example for little Zachary Brody. He’s going to be fun to torture, Arys.”
Harold suddenly slapped Arys hard across the face angrily, the boy too exhausted to try to fight the man off any longer.
“All you had to do was behave, Arys! I would have given you everything if you would have helped me groom Zach,” Harold said with a sneer. “Shame that I’m going to have to break him in on my own, though.”
Harold laughed darkly before he slapped Arys again, knocking the small boy backwards into the door. The door rattled for a split second before it broke open behind Arys and he fell into the garage, and out of my sight. Harold went to reach for the boy, but his hand was suddenly pushed away, and the door slammed shut.
The Monster looked furious and started throwing his entire body against the door, but it wouldn’t budge. He screamed and shouted angrily until the door suddenly fell open under his fists, only to reveal that there was nobody inside the dark garage. Harold was seething when he came back out of the garage empty-handed, and my heart felt happy for a moment at the thought that Arys might have actually gotten away.
He made it, I thought happily. I’m sure I’ll be able to find him, now.
I wanted to wake up, but my mind had other ideas as I suddenly found myself following along behind Arys as a deluge of rain fell from the skies. Just as it was beginning to lighten up, Arys glanced up and started running.
I looked ahead of him to see a man with pointy ears talking on a cell phone as he stepped out into an intersection. I turned my head to the left and saw why Arys was freaked out. A car was speeding toward the intersection without any sign of slowing down.
Everything seemed to go into slow motion as Arys threw himself at the back of the man, pushing the man out of the way just enough that only his leg was clipped by the car. Arys’ fate was much worse, though.
I screamed as Arys was hit by the front of the car and rolled up onto the hood. His tiny body slammed into the windshield, shattering it into pieces before he flipped up and over the top of the car, twisting several times in the air before he slammed into the asphalt and rolled onto his back. The boy lay motionless as a crowd began gathering around the two individuals lying in the middle of the intersection. The car slammed into a parked car on the side of the road and a woman stumbled out of the car wearing a brown skirt. She had thick-framed glasses, and her blonde hair was pulled back in a bun. The woman looked panic-stricken for a moment before she took several deep breaths and pulled out her cell phone.
I heard myself scream out my friend’s name as the dream faded into nothingness.
I awoke to find Greg holding me tightly against his chest, humming softly as he rocked me back and forth. The man’s brown eyes were filled with tears as held me.
“Zyan!” He cried out happily when he saw my eyes open. “Oh God, kid! You had me so fucking worried! You’ve never been stuck in a nightmare that bad before, buddy. I was about ready to call your mom and dad to see if they had any ideas.”
Greg pulled me against him and just hugged me happily.
“Are you okay, Zyan?”
“I think so,” I said softly as Greg’s hand rubbed up and down my back.
“Who is Arys, Zyan?”
I frowned and buried my face into Greg’s chest.
“He was my old foster brother,” I told Greg. “He went missing two years ago, right after I moved in with the Monster.”
“Oh,” my foster-dad said quietly. “Do you know what happened to him?”
“I don’t know for sure, Greg,” I said. “It was so weird. I saw Harold chasing him and he caught Arys. Then, when Harold was punching Arys, Arys fell through a door and just disappeared.”
“Yeah,” I said nervously. It sounded pretty weird to me as I began telling Greg about my dream. “Then, I saw Arys get hit by a car. That’s when I woke up.”
“Damn, kid,” Greg said with a light chuckle. “You have got me beat in the crazy dream department. I’ll check with my buddy at the police station to see if he knows anything about Arys. Okay?”
I nodded solemnly.
“What was his full name?”
“Arys Conner,” I told Greg. “He was eleven, Greg.”
Greg nodded and kissed my cheek. My foster-dad stretched out on the bed and pulled me against him.
“You’re getting a bunkmate, tonight,” he said with a yawn. “Toby stole my spot, so I’m stealing his.”
I giggled and made myself comfortable.
I hope you’re safe, Arys, I thought with a sigh. I miss you.
“Zyan?” Greg asked quietly.
“It would probably be a bad idea if you told Natalie that I dropped the f-bomb in front of you, buddy.”
“I didn’t hear a thing, Greg,” I said with a giggle.
“Thank you, Zyan,” Greg said before we both drifted off to sleep.
I awoke Saturday morning to find Toby lying on my chest and no sign of Greg. My bladder was screaming at me, so I slid out from beneath the six-year-old and ran for the bathroom. I was only alone a moment before the door popped open and Toby ran into the bathroom. I giggled as he pulled down the front of his shorts before he even joined me at the toilet. I quickly scooted over to make room for him, so he didn’t make a mess on the floor. Toby sighed happily the moment his bladder released into the toilet bowl.
“Feel better?” I asked with another giggle. I finished peeing and washed my hands. “You didn’t look like you were going to make it.”
“I barely did, Zyan,” Toby replied with his own sleepy giggle. He washed his hands off after he flushed the toilet and proceeded to follow me downstairs. He smiled as he slid his hand into mine. “Are you okay?”
“Yeah, buddy,” I told him as I remembered the dream I had the night before. The dream that had scared Greg to tears. “I’m okay, now. I’m sorry if I scared you.”
“It’s okay, Zyan,” Toby said with a shy grin. “I’m just glad you’re here.”
I stopped at the bottom of the stairs and pulled Toby into my arms.
“I love you, Toby,” I told my little brother. “The nightmares will get better in time. Don’t forget, you can always call me whenever you want. All you have to do is take your dad’s phone.”
“It’s not the same, though,” Toby whimpered.
“I know, Toby,” I said softly. “You won’t be living this far away for very long. Natalie and Greg are looking for a house closer to where I live.”
“It still won’t be the same,” Toby stated.
“I know,” I repeated myself. “But we’ll figure out a way to make it work.”
“Do you promise?”
“I promise, Toby,” I told him honestly. “You’re my little brother! I would never leave you behind.”
Toby nodded and hugged me before his stomach growled.
“Oh man,” I said dramatically. “We better get you to the kitchen, so you don’t try to eat someone!”
Toby growled and started reaching out away from me towards the kitchen. I giggled and set the six-year-old on the floor.
“Hhhhhuuuunnngggrrrrrrrryyyyyyyyyy!” Toby moaned out like a zombie as he started shuffling towards the kitchen.
I followed along behind him with a smile on my face. The weekend with Toby, Natalie, and Greg was exactly what I needed to help me relax, even if I did ruin my first night by having a nightmare.
Natalie and Greg were laughing happily and tickling Toby when I finally entered the kitchen and leaned against the door frame. They were a perfect family.
“Come on, Zyan,” Natalie said as she glanced up and saw me standing there. “Would you like pancakes for breakfast?”
I smiled and nodded as I went over to Natalie and hugged her.
“Thanks for letting me come here, Natalie,” I told her. “I love you.”
Natalie patted my back and smiled at me.
“Pancakes it is,” she said cheerily.
“Toby, we need to have Zyan over more often,” Greg said with a chuckle as he set the boy on the stool next to me. “We’ll get pancakes, more often.”
Toby giggled and nodded.
“I love mommy’s pancakes,” he said with a grin.
“Me, too, buddy,” Greg said as he kissed Toby’s cheek before he hugged me. “Are you doing better, Zyan?”
“Yeah,” I said with a grin. “Thank you for helping me last night.”
“It’s what I do,” Greg said as he sat down next to me. “At least, you didn’t punch me this time.”
Natalie laughed out loud at Greg’s comment. Greg just groaned.
“The guys at the office still give me crap about that,” my foster-dad told me with a laugh. He reached over and tickled me. “They keep asking me when the slugger is going to come visit them at the office.”
I giggled and smiled shyly.
“Sorry,” I told him. “Looks like you had better find someone else to teach Toby how to duck!”
“Hey!” Toby said indignantly. “I was able to duck last night! I touched Zyan and he rolled over so fast that he almost hit me, but I was a lot faster than daddy!”
Toby giggled happily as I felt my face fall.
I almost hit Toby?
I suddenly felt horrible, but Greg kept me from sliding off of the stool by quickly pulling me onto his lap. He consciously turned me away from Toby as the little boy continued to enthrall Natalie with tails of how quick he was. Natalie kept him dutifully distracted while Greg wiped a tear from my cheek.
“Relax, Zyan,” Greg said only loud enough for me to hear. “Nightmares happen, buddy. We warned Toby a long time ago to be careful with you when you were asleep, just to keep both of you from getting hurt. You have no control over what happens in your sleep, Zyan. Trust me, we know you would never hurt Toby on purpose. Okay?”
He looked at me as I took a few deep breaths to get myself back under control. Greg wiped a couple more tears from my cheek before he slid me back over to my stool, all without Toby noticing. Natalie patted Toby on the cheek before she returned to her task of making breakfast for us. I forced myself to smile as Toby turned his attention to me, and after a few seconds of listening to the little boy’s antics, the smile on my face had turned into a real one.
The remainder of the weekend passed by quickly, and before I went to leave, I pulled Toby aside to give him the teddy bear that Greg had bought him Friday afternoon. He was meant to find it Friday night, but Toby had not stayed in his own room the entire weekend, so he didn’t see it mixed in with his pillows.
I grabbed Toby’s hand and pulled him into his bedroom.
“What’s going on, Zyan?” Toby asked curiously.
I giggled and turned Toby to where he was facing the bed. He gasped immediately and leaped for the bed. The tiny boy had the light-brown stuffed animal in his arms a second later.
“A bear?” Toby asked in shock, his hazel eyes were wide in disbelief. “Who got it for me?”
“Your mommy and daddy got it for you, Toby,” I told him. “You looked like you wanted your own teddy bear, again, so I asked your daddy to go get you one.”
The bear had a tiny green bow tied around its neck, and the eyes were a golden-yellow color. It had a small black nose that looked shiny in the light, and a smile was sewn onto the bear’s face as a mouth. A moment later, Toby was in my arms, sobbing happily.
“I love you, Zyan!” He cried out. “Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!”
Toby slid from my arms and ran from his room, crying the entire way as he took his bear with him. I smiled as I listened to his voice fading away as he yelled out for his mom and dad.
“Mommy! Daddy! Mommy! Daddy!” He was clearly excited as I heard him thanking them both, over and over again.
I couldn’t help but smile before I went and gathered up my stuff so Natalie could take me home before my mother started calling. I had made the required phone calls during my mini-vacation and had even managed to talk to Kyan for a few minutes before Toby wanted to talk to my brother about Minecraft. I gave up after that and told Kyan I loved him before I handed the phone over to Toby with a giggle.
Greg promised to let me know if he was able to find out anything about my former foster-brother. If he had been hit by a car, then there should be a record of it somewhere. Or was it all just a horrible nightmare? The only way to truly know, was to search for any mention of the accident by myself.